Tag Archives: Frodo

What Makes a Hero?

I’ve been thinking about heroes and heroism a lot recently. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally gotten back into reading more fiction (my day job requires a lot of reading, and reading “for fun” quit being fun for a little while), or maybe it’s because I’m also reading about the American Revolution, but it recently struck me that the virtue of heroism has captivated the human race since we first started telling tales of gods, monsters, and their offspring.

The first heroes were demigods, and the Greeks often revered them in their worship. I’m sure we’re all familiar with Heracles, Achilles, and Perseus. The original heroes were masters of all things martial. If something needed killing, they could do it. Their prowess with weapons and war were far beyond the skills of any mortal warrior.

Things starting changing, though, and the term “hero” began to apply to those of high moral virtue. St. Augustine first began calling Christian martyrs heroes over 1,600 years ago.

In my opinion, a hero is closer to a martyr than a man of martial prowess. Instead, a hero has a sense of altruism. Sure, there can be martial prowess there, but I think a hero is someone who is willing to sacrifice all in order to benefit others.

Batman and Robin

Note: Robin wouldn’t have died if Batman had offed the Joker the first dozen or so times he escaped. The Joker has killed over a THOUSAND people.

Take the Batman, for instance. By all accounts, he reminds us of the classical hero. No one can match his fighting prowess. He can out think and, more importantly, out fight all of his enemies.

But, where is his sacrifice? Sure, he’s lost a few friends along the way, but they probably didn’t have to die. Have you noticed how many people that the Joker has murdered? Have you also noticed that the Joker always gets out of Arkham Asylum to kill again? Honestly, I think Batman would be more heroic if he was willing to sacrifice his own morals in order to save countless lives. But, he isn’t.

Besides, you could argue that the Dark Knight is absolutely terrible for Gotham City. He works outside the law to catch criminals, but then relies on the corrupt system that he eschews while capturing the bad guys in order to prosecute the criminal. I’ve actually never had the sense that Bruce Wayne really cared about the people he was protecting. Instead, he fights crime to make himself feel better. I find him living in a perpetual martyr fantasy.

And don’t even get me started on Superman.

So, which fictional character do I consider a hero? Frodo Baggins.

Though Frodo begins as the unwitting hero, by the time of the encounter on Weathertop and his healing in Rivendell, we find Frodo to be a hobbit of great courage.

From the council where they were trying to figure out what to do with the Ring:

“I will take the Ring,” he said, “though I do not know the way.”

Frodo shows courage, even in the face of the unknown. His mission is to save the Shire, but as he works to complete his mission, he begins to change. By the time he reaches Mordor, he has already gone through so much tribulation that he can barely walk on his own. His reasoning is certainly off, for he abandons Sam in favor of Gollum. By the time he succumbs to the Ring and Gollum falls into Mount Doom, he is basically a shadow of his former self (tragically ironic, since he has a Morgul blade piece embedded in his body).

Frodo saves the Shire, but he is forever different. The Shire begins to shun him in favor of his hobbit buddies. Merry and Pippin leave the Shire a little bit immature, but come back as powerful, confident adults. Sam also comes back with some worldly wisdom and a sense of confidence (demonstrated by his asking Rosie Cotton to marry him).

But, Frodo is basically shunned into seclusion. He spends his time working on his book while his friends get a lot of the glory for saving the Shire. Frodo doesn’t feel like he can ever belong. And he can’t. He’s fundamentally changed. Perhaps he has the fantasy novel form of PTSD. The battle of wills with the Ring (which he lost, by the way) has broken him.

This will make me cry every time. Even when I read the books.

This will make me cry every time. Even when I read the books.

And that’s what makes him heroic.

He had an easy life. He was rich, cared for, and lived in an Englishman’s paradise. And because he loved that life so much, he saved it, and realized he could never again be a part of it. Then, he leaves Middle-earth forever.

As it turns out, Frodo wasn’t up to the challenge, and that’s what makes him such a great hero.

As I reflect on that, I think of the ending of Harry Potter. Did you ever notice that Harry is virtually unchanged by the events of the Harry Potter books? At the end, we see him married, with children, and probably a wizard celebrity. How does one die and not remain unchanged? How is one so closely connected with the greatest evil of his generation and not be fundamentally changed by it? I find that Harry’s magical journey is actually diminished by the fact that a happy ending was required.

So what makes a hero? In my mind, courage, will, and altruism are what is needed. As my son’s favorite show Jake and the Neverland Pirates would say, “the strength to be a friend.”

 

So, what do you think makes a hero?

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Movie

I did not expect to like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Honestly, I didn’t expect anything at all. Aside from the experiences we’ve all had with prequels to classic trilogies, I hadn’t given it much thought. Don’t take that for indifference to Lord Of The Rings. I love Peter Jackson’s first trilogy. The Two Towers is a masterpiece of storytelling, acting, cinematography and on and on. These are great films.

How does Peter Jackson he make THIS GUY in a hobbit suit look sexy? Is he a wizard?!?

It is a bold choice to revisit the universe after such success. Much less integrate all the same cast and characters without mucking up the original intent or your own mythology. I can’t think of a single prequel, reboot or reimagining that did due credit to its source. Again, no expectations.

Which is why it’s such a delight that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is so much fun. So much unexpected fun! I had no idea I wanted to know more about Gandalf, Elrond or Saruman. It didn’t occur to me that we had never seen any of these characters interact outside of the context of a magical apocalypse.

And boy howdy was it gratifying to see Bilbo as something other than a ring-hoarding crazy guy. There is so much here that informs Lord Of The Rings in a meaningful way. And all the standard fare remains. The cinematography is beautiful and the 48 frames per second doesn’t hurt. Ian McKellan’s Gandalf is a charmer and show-stealer. And I hadn’t realize how much I missed Peter Jackson’s patented have-a-bunch-of-people-running while a camera captures it from helicopter.

Which is a gift and a curse. I’ve been told that The Hobbit was intended to be a children’s book, which probably explains why the heroes were able to use flaming pine cones to fight an Orc war band.

The purists may not be happy as I suspect some light revisionism is in use to further connect the new trilogy with the old. But I can’t tell and, honestly, I don’t care.

And now I’m, unexpectedly, invested in the ending. I have NO IDEA how this trilogy is supposed to end. Or how they can squeeze two more movies out of this story. It’s a mystery! I would almost be tempted to read The Hobbit if it wasn’t The Hobbit.

I recommend this film to everyone, though parents should be aware that there is a lot of violence and some moments children would find terrifying.

Highlights & Questions

  • Dragons are assholes
  • Gandalf will kill you with a sword
  • Gollum is menacing as hell
  • Will Peter Jackson’s professionalism win out against the ever-constant urge to retool his first trilogy for symmetry’s sake?
  • Saruman, while not evil, is still a dick
  • I bet Elijah Wood never thought he would wear that outfit again.
  • If giant eagles are always around to help why not just fly The One Ring to mount doom?

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Trilogies: Why the Best Things Come in Threes

JRR Tolkien’s covers for The Lord of the Rings. Fair Use.

Trilogies are most often associated with science-fiction or fantasy, whether it be in film, novel, or even video game. However, the trilogy has been used for thousands of years, dating back to the Greeks. The Greek trilogy of plays known as The Oresteia is the oldest surviving trilogy that we have.

Why have trilogies survived for such a long time? Here are a few of the reasons.

1. They easily fit a thee-act structure

Trilogies are, obviously, perfect for the three-act structure. If you’re not familiar with it, here is a brief overview.

1. The first act generally deals with introducing characters and the world they inhabit. Later in the first act, something will happen that will change the main character’s life.

2. In the second act, the main character will try to solve his problem, but only make it worse, since he is not sufficiently experienced enough to deal with the problem.

3.) The third act will resolve the problem.

For example:

1.) In The Lord of the Rings narrative,  Fellowship of the Ring, is the first act. Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Humans, and the world they live in are all introduced. Frodo gets the ring, which changes his life forever. The problem ensues when Frodo decides to take the ring to Mordor. After Boromir tries to take the ring away, Frodo makes the decision to take the ring to Mordor on his own, which he is not ready for.

2.) The Two Towers continues the story of Frodo, who realizes how complicated his situation is getting. Gollum, Faramir, and the hordes of Mordor all complicate the situation. He realizes that he can’t carry his burden alone, but refuses Sam’s help and trusts Gollum instead of his best friend.

3.) In Return of the King, Frodo and Sam complete their quest after discovering that trust, friendship, and crazy determination (also, Gollum biting off a finger), will always win the day. The subplots are resolved, the characters are left forever changed, but are more mature and complete because of the experience.

You could apply this structure to any number of trilogies. It’s just easy, and if done well, can work beautifully.

2.) Trilogies are lucrative

Why do publishers and movie studios love trilogies? Because they make money. If the first movie or book does well, no doubt that the second and third parts of the story will also make sales. Guaranteed sales are good for the author and the publisher.  So, yes, sometimes it’s a greedy plot to make more money, but honestly, isn’t having more story worth it?

3.) Concerning fantasy/sci-fi

Fantasy and sci-fi readers are more likely to be reading for fun, so long stories are enjoyable for those readers. I love fantasy and sci-fi, so I love series that make up a trilogy (or multiple trilogies). I never feel like I have to plod through those stories, because I am doing it for enjoyment.

I know people complain about the prevalence of trilogies, but they are good for the reader, the writer, and the publisher/studio. They are an ancient form of storytelling that isn’t going anywhere soon, so try your best to enjoy the ride.

 

 

((The featured image is a screen capture from The Fellowship of the Ring. Subject to fair use. Used for illustrative purposes only.))

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